Chair Gail Hagerty called the meeting to order at 10:00 a.m. The following members were present:
Judge Gail Hagerty
Rev. Robert Lynne
Judge Ron Goodman
Judge Lester Ketterling
J. Phillip Johnson
Keithe E. Nelson
The first item of business was to draw numbers to determine the terms of office for the members of the panel. Keithe Nelson was asked to draw the numbers. The following terms are established:
J. Phillip Johnson - One year
Judge Goodman - Two years
Judge Ketterling - Two years
Rev. Lynne - Three years
Judge Hagerty - Three years
Chair Hagerty outlined the mission of the Informal Complaint Panel. The scope of responsibility is limited to judges and judicial employees. It is important that all members and the public understand that when a complaint is made, it is confidential and anonymous to the public. If the panel member receives the complaint, the panel member is to notify the chair, and if agreed, the panel member will deal with the problem, or the chair, or the chair will assign it to the full panel. After the matter is resolved, the complaint will be shredded. There is no record of the actions of the panel other than a general report at year end as to numbers and types of cases.
Chair Hagerty next presented forms which she prepared to be used by the committee. After discussion, it was decided that in addition to listing each of the panel members on the public brochure, it is important to provide a general address where individuals can file their complaint. It was decided to add the following address: Informal Complaint Committee, State Court Administrator's Office, Supreme Court, Dept. 180, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND. The document should be marked on the envelope "Personal & Confidential - Do Not Open". This information will be inserted and added to the informal complaint brochure. The only other suggested change was on the informal complaint form. This form also notifies individuals of their rights concerning the Judicial Conduct Commission, the Disciplinary Board, or a grievance filed with the person's supervisor. It was deemed appropriate to add that an individual also has the right to file a complaint with the Director of Human Resources, State Court Administrator's Office, Supreme Court, Dept. 180, 600 E. Boulevard Ave., Bismarck, ND 58505. Telephone number (701) 328-4216.
Judge Goodman suggested that a press report should be released. Judge Ketterling suggested that it would be better after the Judicial Conference when all the judges are informed of the program. Chair Hagerty announced that she will brief all judges during the Judicial Conference and make a press release after the presentation.
Chair Hagerty reminded individuals that it is important that if a panel or member receives a complaint that it be communicated to the chair as soon as possible. The chair will keep records on complaints filed as to the number of complaints, the panel's strategy for dealing with the complaint, and the general nature of the complaint. Nothing retained will breech confidentiality. This information will be compiled into a yearly report to the Supreme Court.
Judge Goodman suggested that a vice chair might be needed. Judge Goodman then moved that Rev. Lynne be appointed as vice chair. Judge Ketterling seconded the motion. The motion was carried.
The issue of feedback to complainants was next discussed. From the discussion, it was clear that the group felt that some sort of feedback to the complainant is absolutely necessary. The form and nature of this feedback will be decided individually in each case but with the understanding that all complainants will receive feedback of some type.
Future meetings will be called by the chair as necessary.
Keithe E. Nelson